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Underworld Ascendant Update #6: Meet Joe Fielder and the Shadow Beast

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Underworld Ascendant Update #6: Meet Joe Fielder and the Shadow Beast

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 20 July 2015, 23:58:22

Tags: Chris Siegel; Joe Fielder; OtherSide Entertainment; Underworld Ascendant

The pre-production of Underworld Ascendant has been humming along quietly for the past month. The game's previous update didn't really have much gameplay-wise, but it did feature a self-introduction by design director Joe Fielder, which offered a glimpse at the sort of things OtherSide are working on right now:

Hey, everyone. It's been a few months since I joined on as design director, so I thought I'd say hello, explain what I do around here, and hint obliquely at what's next for Underworld Ascendant.

My game background is pretty wildly disparate, ranging from level design in first-person shooters in the Medal of Honor series, puzzle design for Stephen Spielberg's BOOM BLOX, narrative for BioShock Infinite, and more. I've also been a producer for art, narrative, and design, a game journalist, and a comic book writer. I've worked on enormous AAA games and scrappy indie projects.

The reason I mention this is I've found myself drawing on ALL those experiences on a daily basis.

For instance, puzzle design comes to bear, albeit a little abstractly, while considering ways that the player will utilize the Improvisation Engine to find clever ways to interact with the environment and the creatures within it. Narrative and level design play a part in plotting out how we introduce those gameplay elements and tie them into the overall world in fun, interesting ways. Comic book writing helps me consider what information we might express visually and game writing, how to keep dialogue lean, focused, and out of the way of the action. Game reviewing means always thinking about what players will find compelling and fun. And my time in production means I have some incredibly talented artists and audio designers to draw upon to help ensure the Stygian Abyss looks and sounds amazing.

[...] Over the last few months, we've taken the time to work out the game's backstory, not only so we know the spine of the overall narrative, but so we understand the underlying philosophies behind each Faction. Knowing their wants and desires helps reveal their points of conflict with each other and how to design how they live, build, dress, create, fight, and utilize magic. It informs us exactly how the story of the Underworld should seep into every stone AND tie into gameplay systems, so we can create a world full of wonder that's fun to play and fascinating to explore.

At the same time, we've been tackling those aforementioned gameplay systems and fleshing out our bestiary of creatures, so that those elements are equally integrated and pervasive. But that's a topic for another day, after [redacted] is finished. Suffice to say, we have some fun stuff in store.
Today's update introduces one of the game's monsters - the Shadow Beast, a translucent fiend that was also in the original Ultima Underworld. Producer Chris Siegel chose a rather unusual manner of describing it. Here's an excerpt from his interview with the Shadow Beast, which in true Underworld Ascendant fashion, provides an overview of its role in the game's ecology:

CS: But now you are back! New and improved! Can you tell us a bit about how you fit into the new Stygian Abyss?

SB: Sure, I don't want to give too much away of course. First let's be clear about this. Shadow Beasts are smart. We are not really just apex predators, we have communities. We have a natural camouflage mechanism that causes us to take on the coloration of their surroundings. Moreover, we also have an innate magical ability that occludes us from easy detection (they appear dimly, if at all, under light or detect spells-Ed.). Lurking in the far corners of the Underworld, we use our stealth to waylay the unwary. We have been known to take contracts from other factions and races to...remove obstacles forcefully. (I think he means they hire out as assassins-Ed.)
CS: Interesting. Tell me more about your communities.

SB: We live in small familial communities in the darkest, most secluded parts of the Underworld. We don't like visitors. No one has ever discovered a shadow beast clan home. Or at least none have lived to tell the tale. (Laughs) We usually build our clan homes in cool, dark and dry areas. But we are everywhere not just in the dry regions, and when hunting for food will range into other biomes of the Underworld, including hot caverns and the fungal forests. One thing we dislike is the stench of the Underswamp.(Makes face. Pinches nose).

CS: I see. How do you get along with other races of the Underworld?

SB: We are very territorial and clannish and live by an 'eye for an eye' credo, so sometimes a particular shadow beast group will take umbrage with one of the Underworld factions, or another shadow beast clan, sparking a short lived but violent dispute. If we are angry with a faction we do not attack outright, but from the shadows, always from the shadows.

CS: What do you eat?

SB: We beasts live on a wide range of foodstuffs, and will eat most anything when times are tough. Our favorite is Earthclot, with a single one of these creatures being able to feed a clan for a week. We also hunt Rippers, and I think we may be the only ones tough enough to eat them.
The update also informs us that OtherSide are now hard at work developing the game's first vertical slice build. I assume that it's from this build that they plan to eventually release some much-needed gameplay footage.

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